Diana Leach

Smiling Caucasian female with blonde hair and pink highlights.

What are some of the ways in which you support first gen college students?

Supporting First-Generation college students through is not only an honor, but also an incredibly awe-inspiring experience as an adviser who was not First-Gen. I always offer to provide as much guidance as necessary while never failing to emphasize a most sincere sense of awe and admiration of this amazing student population, especially in watching them continuously demonstrate a level of self-efficiency and drive that is an impressive testament to their strength of character, adaptability, and motivation to succeed with resilience in the face of a pandemic. 

What are some of the challenges that you see first-gen students face? How do they overcome those challenges (or manage the challenge if it cannot be overcome)?

First-Generation students face several challenges, though perhaps one of the most forward and obvious is that they come to an institution of higher learning without the help and guidance that so many of us (who were not first-generation) would not have known what to do without that guidance. 

In overcoming these challenges I find first-generation students to be impressively independent and informed through navigating the ins and outs of attending college/university mostly on their own. This can truly be a tough road at first and they may experience a period of insecurity or doubt in their abilities; however, through proactive outreach and developing a further sense of independence leads them to unique paths in finding solutions to manage challenges and barriers to their success. 

When unsuccessful on their own if a particular challenge cannot be overcome so easily, building a good rapport with advisers, faculty, staff, and other first-generation students is a great start toward putting those puzzle pieces back together to complete their journey. 

What strengths do first gen students possess? How have you seen that lead to their success in college and beyond? 

The strengths that first-gen students possess are numerous, though most times they are largely surprised (and sometimes embarrassed) by compliments regarding these strengths. 

I call it like I see it. If any student is taking appropriate steps to navigate and independently explore any aspect of college life, especially during their first and second years, I never hesitate to note where credit is due as these students demonstrate continued acknowledgement of the foresight needed to manage and overcome an overwhelming number of of potential challenges/barriers to academic success. I am humbled by my work with these students and often wonder how my perspective or personality might be different if I were to do what our first-generation students do. 

They are pioneers. They are trailblazers. They are courageous, introspective, and full of possibilities in making our collective future brighter and inspirational. 

What advice would you give to first gen students?

See your strengths and acknowledge them every single day, because YOU ARE AMAZING. You are here. 

Recognize the power you have in these strengths and how much others can benefit just from your presence. We see you, so be sure that you see you, too. 

We stand in awe of you, first-generation students, and as an ally, I look forward to learning more from you, and learning more with you. 

Whenever you are in doubt, truly look at what you've accomplished so far and remember that uncertainty is the path to understanding.